Page last updated at 16:20 GMT, Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Bear statue to adorn carer's grave

The recent sudden death of Thomas Doerflein, the zookeeper who dedicated himself to bringing up Germany's celebrity polar bear Knut, touched many people in Berlin.

Now Mr Doerflein's family wants to put a statue of Knut by his grave, the BBC's Tristana Moore reports.

Zoo keeper Thomas Doerflein and polar bear Knut in March 2007
Thomas Doerflein fed Knut by hand for 150 days

Since news broke of Thomas Doerflein's death in late September, thousands of mourners have flocked to the cemetery in the Spandau district to pay their respects.

Erika Doerflein, Thomas' mother, said: "In around three months' time we'll be able to have a tombstone. I would like to ask a stonemason to make a figure, a polar bear and a wolf, which would be around a metre high."

The zookeeper had looked after wolves, as well as the celebrity bear.

"I go and see Thomas every day at the cemetery," his 71-year-old mother told Germany's Bild newspaper.

"All those flowers, pictures and cards help me overcome my grief. Sometimes it makes me cry.

"People recognise me when I'm there and they talk to me. Most of the visitors are women, and some start crying. Thomas was very popular," Mrs Doerflein added.

Elvis songs

Thomas Doerflein (44) was found dead in his flat in Berlin at the end of September. Police said he suffered a heart attack and they ruled out any suspicious circumstances.

Knut at the Berlin Zoo. Photo: October 2008
Knut is no longer the cuddly cub who won German hearts

The pony-tailed zookeeper won the admiration of many Germans after he fed Knut, then a cute, tiny, polar bear cub, by hand for 150 days after his mother Tosca rejected him.

After his birth in December 2006, Knut suddenly became an international celebrity, drawing huge crowds to the Berlin Zoo and the cub even appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair.

Mr Doerflein slept on a mattress beside Knut at the zoo while he fed him from a bottle. Today, many visitors still go to the city zoo to see the star attraction.

Erika Doerflein has picked up all of her son's belongings from the zoo.

"I found his clothes, his jeans, his grey woollen jumper and socks. He loved wearing wool," she said.

But she also found piles of fan mail, lots of photos and in one box, she found her son's old Elvis records and the music book for his guitar.

"When Knut was small, Thomas often played Elvis songs on the guitar for him," Mrs Doerflein said.

Print Sponsor

Shock at polar bear's carp kill
08 Apr 08 |  Europe
What are zoos for?
08 Jan 08 |  Magazine
In pictures: Knut's story
09 Jul 07 |  In Pictures

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific